Atlantic Circuit,  Northern Europe,  Sailing

Sailing past the shipping lanes to the English Channel

September 28 – October 1, 2020

Our next planned leg was sailing to France past the big shipping lanes around Rotterdam and Belgium and into the English Channel. So after our short visit in Amsterdam we woke up early to leave the canals and head back out to the sea.

We first motored from Amsterdam towards IJmuiden, where we would pass through the last lock.

Sailing shipping lanes english channel
In the last lock in Ijmuiden before entering the North Sea once more.
Sailing shipping lanes english channel
When we reached the sea once more we got company by a lot of small birds.

Through the English Channel and North Sea the big ships travel along the TSS (Traffic Separation Scheme) which we didn’t need to cross (as we where just going along the coast). Where there are TSS zones there is usually an ITZ as well (Inshore Traffic Zone) between the commercial shipping lane and the coast. Staying in the ITZ is no problem but every now and then the commercial ships will leave their zone and head into land, and then you have to cross their path.

When sailing past Rotterdam, at Maas Entrance, there is a recommended crossing for leisure craft. When you cross the shipping lane you should cross straight over or with a right angle. Rotterdam is the biggest port in Europe and the ships going in and out are HUGE, so don’t want to be in their way.

Sailing shipping lanes english channel
The recommended crossing for pleasure craft outside Rotterdam. Quite messy sailing past the big shipping lanes to the English Channel. 

We approached Maas Entrance in the later afternoon/evening. The sun hadn’t yet set but was soon about to. Just before our crossing four ships passed on their way to Rotterdam and after that the entrance was empty so that we could easily pass. Not short after we where safe on the other side three or four ships passed. So we where really lucky with finding a good window to pass.

The next challenging shipping lane, we thought, was the ones outside Zeebrugge, as there where several in different direction and as we would pass there by night. But it went fine, we passed the shipping lanes fast and well away from any big ships.

In our opinion it was more work avoiding the dredging and fishing vessels as they move in the ITZ and suddenly can change direction. The big ships stay in their zone and maintain their course.

Other than that our night sail from Amsterdam to Dunkirk offered pretty strong winds and at times, pretty high waves. As there was a lot of job steering the boat and navigating, we both got really tired. We tried with shorter rests for the both of us but it was a really tiring and cold night. Next night sail we will probably be able use the autopilot or windvane more so resting will be easier.

When morning came the wind died out and we started the engine and reached Dunkirk in France just before lunch. We ate lunch at a restaurant and after that we want back to the boat and fell asleep. We had a calm evening with wine and serie watching before falling asleep once more.

The following day we visited the market in Dunkirk, went food shopping and fixed some things on the boat. We spent another night in Dunkirk before continuing through Dover straight.

Walking around in Dunkirk.
Visiting the market.

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